In today’s guest post, E.E. Slinger gives us some thoughts on sin, wisdom and love. E.E. Slinger is a student of counseling and theology and lives in Chicago, IL.
During the last lectures of my theology class, we talked about the “riddle of sin”–that is, the mystery of it, and over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading Cornelius Plantinga’s Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin. Once again, a paradigm has shifted.
Last year, I came to the (what I thought to be somewhat-stable) conclusion that God allowed sin to enter the world, because that is the only way we would be able to recognize and know His love. In a sense, I likened His love to light, which I argued can only be seen and understood as such if one also knows darkness. At the time, this answer brought much relief, because I had, in some way, solved the riddle of sin. Sin (and all consequent suffering) is the “price,” per say, of truly knowing the love of God.
Of course, this makes no sense, (and answers to suffering such as “This happened for God’s glory” are rather shallow and shitty). Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I believe, recognized this in The Brothers Karamazov. Here, the atheist Ivan poses a question to his brother, Alyosha, the priest.
Answer me: Imagine that you yourself are building the edifice of human destiny with the object of making people happy in the finale, of giving them peace and rest at last, but for that you must inevitably and unavoidably torture just one tiny creature, that same child who was beating her chest with her little fist, and raise your edifice on the foundation of her unrequited tears–would you agree to be the architect on such conditions? Tell me the truth.
“No, I would not agree,” Alyosha said softly.
The truth is, within God’s will, sin is neither inevitable nor unavoidable, for it is not intrinsic to human nature–to the way God created us. Sin is not necessary, if you will. But it does exist, and that, of course, is the reason we live in constant fear, anxiety, and stress, for we cannot predict sin nor can we understand how or why it happens.
Sin is, by definition, inexplicable.
Yet we try to explain it through a myriad of theories in a sorry, fruitless attempt to mitigate our fear. To explain sin is to understand it, and I’m deeply afraid to understand it is to accept it. Or, we simply avert sin (or at least avert our minds from it) by filling our lives with constant trivial entertainment and leisure (here, I think of the terrifying irony of millions of Americans watching the Superbowl as thousands of women are exploited due to the event). To avert sin is simply to ignore it. Of course, acceptance and ignorance are two equally unacceptable responses.
The only other option is to stand in the tension and to name sin exactly what it is–sin. Of course, to name sin as it truly is leads us to the undeniable, desperate longing and need for redemption. Sometimes, that redemption is difficult (PAINFULLY DIFFICULT) to see, and sometimes there is the temptation to despair. I do not understand sin, and thinking about how there is this insoluble disease that has infected and destroyed every aspect of reality has been overwhelming, to say the least. However, I also know that the inexplicability of sin does not render me hopeless.
God is not raising His edifice on the unrequited tears of His children.
For the tears that flow from every person who experiences every suffering caused by every sin have been requited (and redeemed) by the very tears of Jesus, when He was naked on the cross and cried aloud “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”